“Younger Republicans want to see racial disparities fixed,” said Wesley Donehue, a South Carolina-based G.O.P. strategist. “If Republicans don’t address these issues now, we will lose the next generation of young voters, just as we have minorities.”
That’s quite a dramatic claim. But a new Pew Research Center poll’s findings are pretty dramatic on this score as well.
The poll finds that 60 percent of Americans overall think Trump has been delivering the wrong message about the protests. Remarkably, a majority of white Americans, 52 percent, say the same.
But note this:
The youngest U.S. adults, those ages 18 to 29, have the harshest assessment of the message Trump has been delivering about the protests. About three-quarters (76%) of those ages 18 to 29 say his message has been wrong, including close to half (48%) who say it has been completely wrong. Just 22% say it has been right.
Three out of 4 young Americans say Trump’s message has been wrong, with just about half saying it’s been completely wrong.
What’s more, the new Pew polling also finds that an extraordinary 80 percent of those young Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement, 54 percent of them strongly.
A recent Post-Schar School poll helps underscore the point. Here’s what it found among Americans aged 18 to 29 years old:
- 82 percent of them support the protests
- 77 percent of them see the killing of George Floyd as a sign of broader problems in police treatment of black people
- 63 percent of them disapprove of Trump’s response to the protests
- 83 percent say police need to keep making changes to treat blacks equally to whites
- 58 percent prefer a president who will address the nation’s racial divisions, as opposed to restoring security by enforcing the law
This group was born roughly between 1990 and 2003. For them, the touchstones we keep using to discuss this moment — the racial turbulence of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Richard Nixon, “law and order,” the “silent majority,” hippies, hardhats, etc. — might as well have unfolded in black and white.
The oldest in this group turned 18 at around the time Americans elected their first black president. The youngest spent much of their childhood and teen years with America’s first black president in the White House. A large chunk of them probably don’t have any clear memory of any presidents other than Barack Obama and … Donald Trump.
Yet Trump, the only Republican president many of them really lived under while being politically aware, is entirely out of step with them on the underlying issues at stake. Numerous Trump administration officials have denied in recent days that systemic racism is a problem in law enforcement.
And even when Trump edges toward saying the right things, he does it with a sneer: He just told Fox News that it might be time to end chokeholds, but he also said the tactic “sounds so innocent, so perfect.”
Meanwhile, those young people are seeing mass protests fill cities across the country, in perhaps the largest outpouring of political aspirations they’ve ever experienced.
Yet they’re watching as Trump calls the protesters “THUGS,” rages that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” threatens to send in the military, lords over and then celebrates the tear-gassing of peaceful demonstrators, and urges Republicans to stand behind keeping military installations named after Confederate figures, in effect demanding that the GOP brand itself as an explicitly neo-Confederate party.
“This is a movement that’s questioning the power of the state — the power of the police to kill people,” GOP strategist Rick Wilson, a frequent Trump critic, told me. “These young people are seeing this up close.”
Wilson added that many young people are experiencing this political movement in an “intimate” way, noting that its “size and demographics” threaten to usher in a “disastrous political moment” for Republicans.
“This has the potential to shape 20 years of American politics," Wilson told me. “It’s got every downside in the world built into it for the GOP."